Economist warns water repairs will see cuts to essential services

Thousands of kilometres of infrastructure needs to be replaced around the country

Economist warns water repairs will see cuts to essential services

A Louth family using the water station service at Termon Abbey, Drogheda, 25-07-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

A leading economist is warning that fixing Ireland’s ageing water infrastructure will inevitably lead to government spending cuts in other areas.

Irish Water says it will cost up to €3m to completely replace a burst water main in the North East.

The first stage of repairs have now been completed - however it is set to be several days before full service is restored to households in Meath and Louth.

The utility says a preliminary scan of the pipe has found that it will take 18 months to replace it entirely.

It has also warned that thousands of kilometres of piping and infrastructure will need to be replaced right around the country.

On Newstalk Breakfast, economist Colm McCarthy said the Government will be faced with tough decisions when it comes to financing the upgrades:

“It is open to the government to say this is a priority, we will fix the water system nationally and we will allocate a large amount of exchequer money for that purpose,” he said.

“But of course that means less money for lots of other things.

“That means less money for schools, less money for roads and so on.

“They will have to compete with schools and hospitals unlike say the electricity people who send you a bill every couple of months and are fully self-financing.”

He said that Irish Water’s operating costs are already higher than its income - with a huge bill for capital expenditure coming down the line.

 “A lot of the pipework seems to be 50 to 60 years [old] and that is their lifespan,” he said.

“Irish Water know that inevitably there are going to be problems, [however] they don’t know where they are going to occur.

“It is as a consequence of an accumulation of under investment in renewing the network over the years.

“They are going to have to find hundreds of millions to renew the network. Until this is done there will be future problems.”

People across the North East of the country are being urged to conserve water as taps start flowing this morning.